Review Round Up: Carousel, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

We round up what critics made of this revival of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.

Credit: Johan Persson

iNews: *** “The piece’s vibrant Americana still strains to burst free, but its fizz is deliberately flattened, so there is a nagging sense that it never gets going. But the staging is crammed with texture, even if its concept sometimes feels forced.”

The Guardian: *** “It is in Drew McOnie’s choreography that the production’s romance and sensuality come alive, as well as the open displays of predatory desire within this community of stevedores and sailors.”

Time Out: ***** “Combined with a superlative cast, taut, wiry choreography from Drew McOnie and some judicious tweaks and cuts and you have a tougher ‘Carousel’, one that feels truer to its own tragedy.”

Evening Standard: *** “Carly Bawden’s strong, certain voice fills out Julie’s thin character. Joanna Riding (who played Julie in the famous 1992 National Theatre production) hunkers enthusiastically into the matriarch role of Nettie and gives You’ll Never Walk Alone solo welly.”

WhatsOnStage: ***** “Perhaps the most significant change of all, however, is that music supervisor Tom Deering has re-orchestrated the score, stripping out its lush strings but retaining its soaring melodic beauty. It’s familiar yet strange, like meeting an old friend after a long time and its barebones loveliness enables songs such as Julie’s “What’s the Use of Wond’rin” to emerge not as a defence of a wife-beater – “he’s your fella and you love him” – but as a melancholic statement of defeat and resignation.”

London Theatre1: **** ” a fresh production of a loved musical theatre classic worth seeing.”

The Arts Desk: ** “You’ve got to hand it to the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park: this venue never simply dusts off a familiar musical title and plonks it onstage.”

The Stage: *** “An unsweetened, intelligently reframed take on the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.”

The Times: **** “It’s Rodgers and Hammerstein with a British accent, Rodgers and Hammerstein with a contemporary wallop. And if that makes you fear that Timothy Sheader’s revival might be effortful rather than exquisite as it updates the musical arrangements and reshapes the text to take a less forgiving attitude to the hero’s domestic violence, fret not.”

The Telegraph: *** “There’s much to praise about this staging at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre – what a shame it keeps bumping up against the source material.”

The Upcoming: **** “While Carousel at times feels a little uncertain or even confused regarding its message, this production demonstrates that it is still a highly engaging and entertaining musical that can impress audiences, with a beautiful score about the complications of love, responsibility and poverty. With a lovely venue and an engaging cast, this is a worthwhile production and deserves to be seen.”

London ***** “Timothy Sheader’s production is expertly conceived, and every piece fits together and is scattered with stunning stage pictures.”

A Younger Theatre: **** “Sheader’s interrogative intentions are clear, but they could go further. I want more daring endeavours for the musical that is home to such difficult topics, not to mention an anthem of resilience that is now enshrined in British culture. The final threads of fidelity may yet to be cut, but I’d be interested to see somebody try.”

Musical Theatre Review: **** “MD Tom Deering’s new orchestral arrangements are fresh, imaginative, accessible and oddly homely, using – among other instruments – accordion and electric guitars, so we’re a long way from the lush strings that 1940s audiences heard.”

Londonist: ***The highlights of this production lie almost entirely with the Drew McOnie’s dazzling choreography (which, rain or shine, is as slick as anything you’ll see this year) and the supporting cast led by Christina Modestou as Julie’s BFF Carrie, John Pfumojena as Carrie’s husband Enoch and Joanna Riding (who, as Julie’s aunt Nettie, absolutely nails You’ll Never Walk Alone).”

Broadway World: ***** ” Sheader proves that it’s possible to stage questionable yet beloved pieces of theatre showing the inexcusability of their politics. It’s refreshing to see Sheader take an unequivocal, indisputable stance instead of sentimentalising or adulating a classic.”

Carousel will play at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre  until the 25th September. To book tickets visit: Love Theatre.comLondon Theatre Direct or Theatre Tickets Direct.

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